Last year, customers of the world’s fourth largest bank received a curious message. Paris-based BNP Paribas wrote: “Bizarre, an address without .net or .fr? It’s secure! Yes, a site that’s 100% secure!”
To gain greater control of its web space and strengthen customer trust, the bank was switching to a web address ending with its brand—.bnpparibas, a slice of cyber-space owned entirely by them. Today, the entire central website serving 8 million customers in France is nestled deep in the heart of the company’s own private Internet—providing added peace of mind for a business that manages $2.5 trillion in assets.
While most .brands are still evolving, in France the spirit of revolution is alive and disruptively well.
The First Transactional .brand Site
At www.mabanque.bnpparibas—French for “my bank”—customers can do it all. They can open an account, check balances, transfer funds, get product information, and ask for customer support. It’s the first .brand website of any kind with transactional bells and whistles.
The very presence of e-commerce has earned glowing reviews. According to Domain Incite, a domain name news blog, BNP Paribas has created a “fully functioning online banking service, not just brochureware.”
“The fact this is a transactional website is all the more significant,” said information assurance company NCC Group on its corporate blog. “A number of brands have started adopting their own domains for certain parts of their websites, but this marks a new era of brand domains being used for online transactions. It feels like a watershed moment.”
Protection from Email Scams
Robert Holmes, General Manager at email security firm Return Path, explained that cyber-criminals have soundly abused banks. On security site SC Magazine he noted, “It’s dominated headlines with everything from millions of pounds lost to countless customer data breaches and as a result, trust has fallen to an unprecedented low.”
Holmes said that mandatory security measures for .brands “will ensure that spoofed attacks are blocked before getting to the inbox at some of the largest consumer mailbox providers in the world, including Gmail, Yahoo! and Outlook.com.”
.brands offer another layer of defense against email scams. Because BNP Paribas owns its whole web space, only it can issue domains there. French customers are learning that if an address doesn’t end in .bnpparibas, it doesn’t belong to the bank no matter what the site claims.
Of course, BNP Paribas customers had to trust their new site was real. Before it went live, the bank sent an email directing them to a microsite explaining the change, chiefly citing better security and easier navigation. The microsite invites feedback, links to customer support, and assures mobile customers their service will only get better.
A bank with a clear strategy for giving power to the people? Don’t tell Robespierre, but revolutions have changed.